DETERGENT COMPACTION: Why should we be concerned about compaction?

Household detergents have come a long way, environmentally, from the big boxes of powder of the past. And, in fact, one of the ways they have come a long way is in no longer needing big boxes.

Whatever format you buy your detergents in, whether it is a small box packed with small tablets or a family-sized pack of powder, the chances are the contents will go a lot further now than ever before.

It's all down to compaction, which is the process of delivering more effective cleaning performance in smaller quantities. It is about the amount of washing power (not powder) per unit of detergent. By enabling less of your detergent to do more of your washing, manufacturers such as P&G are helping to save you money and also helping to preserve the environment.

The biggest difference you are likely to notice is that today's detergents are easier to carry around. However, this also means they require less energy per unit for distribution, so their environmental impact is lower.

It also means less packaging to be manufactured and recycled. Read on to find out more about why detergent compaction is important for the environment, what P&G is doing about it, and how you can do your bit at home, too.

  • How compaction helps reduce the environmental impact of detergents

    Although you might not see all the benefits directly, detergent compaction is good news for the planet because more compact detergents use:

    • Less energy in manufacturing.
    • Fewer raw materials (meaning less is needed per dose).
    • Less product (and so less waste).
    • Less packaging (less material waste and they are easier to transport and lead to less emissions in the transport process).
    • Less space in warehouses (reducing storage, heating and lighting impact)

    They also result in fewer chemicals, such as sulphate, being washed into surface waters, all of which helps the environment without compromising performance or convenience.

    P&G has gradually concentrated its detergents over the years and will continue to do so.

    Industry initiatives to reduce fillers has reduced environmental impact.

    The detergent industry pays a lot of attention to environmental considerations such as how much (or little) product is needed to do the job. Take a glance through history and it is easy to see why.

    Go back 4 to 5 decades and it was not unusual to find Western European waterways frothing with foam that came from household detergents, released in the environment after use without efficient sewage treatment.

    The absence of this phenomenon nowadays is testament to both improvements in sewage treatment and innovations in the manufacture of washing powders and liquids.

    Starting in the 1960s, industry bodies such as the International Association for Soaps, Detergents and Maintenance Products (A.I.S.E.) fostered the move to more biodegradable surfactants.
    Over the years, this attention has broadened to cover a range of other safety and sustainability issues, such as detergent compaction.

    Being able to provide more 'washing muscle' per unit of product makes sound business sense because smaller packages are easier to make, store and transport. But consumers have not always bought into the idea that small is beautiful.

    Some attempts to put radically more compact products on the market, led consumers to think they were getting less for their money. So recent initiatives have focused on gradual compaction, steadily reducing the volume and weight of detergent needed for the same amount of cleaning, combined with clear changes of the dosing instructions and devices, as well as communication campaigns.

  • How P&G is trying to minimize the impact of detergents

    Analyse the environmental impact of a detergent over the course of its lifecycle and it becomes clear compaction will have significant environmental benefits. That is why P&G has been gradually compacting P&G products for years.

    It is important to use the correct dosage of new, compact products, rather than using them without measuring.

    P&G uses clear guidelines on how much product is needed for optimal results; using too much detergent won't improve your wash, won't help the environment and won't save you money. And underdosing (using too little) often leads to rewashing which can actually increase the overall environmental impact.

    Read on to find out more about P&G's Sustainability Vision and 2020 goals (operations and products), what P&G has done so far to help the environment, how this has helped, and how it plans to continue improving the sustainability of P&G products in the future.

    • P&G's Environmental Quality Policy

      P&G's aim with compaction, as part of its original Environmental Quality Policy and the recent Sustainability Vision and 2020 goals (operations and products) is to try to continually reduce the environmental impact of P&G products without affecting their performance.

      In Western Europe, detergent compaction and concentration initiatives have been implemented to reduce the amount of chemicals and packaging materials needed per wash.

      In fact, there have been a series of compaction initiatives since 1998, reducing the recommended dosage per wash from 150g (before 1998) to less than 85g per wash in common laundry powders and less than 75ml per wash for liquid detergents. And the most recent compacts have even lower dosages.

    • How P&G is trying to minimize the impact of detergents

      During the last 15 years, although you may not have noticed, there have been great changes in the laundry detergent you use. The early 90s saw the launch of compact detergents to complement the traditional big-box.

      Super compacts were introduced a few years later, following a period of intense innovation. Nowadays you can also buy so-called uni-dose products such as tablets and liquitabs (Liquid tablets). Liquitabs represented a major technological breakthrough, as they need to have all water removed from the product so that the protective 'skin' of the liquitab does not dissolve before use. Tablets and liquitabs give you great results in a small unit-dose package. But P&G has greatly reduced the amount of standard washing liquid or powder you need for an optimal wash, too.

      So far P&G has been able to reduce the recommended dosage per wash from 150 grams (dose before 1998) to less than 80grams or our 'regular' powder detergents and less than 70ml per wash for liquid detergents. And the most recent compacts have even lower dosages. This research was carried out by P&G scientists and engineers but improving compaction has not been done in isolation from the rest of the industry.

      These programmes have been carried out in association with the International Association for Soaps, Detergents and Maintenance Products (A.I.S.E.), which has a long history of promoting safety and sustainability in the industry, through programmes supported by P&G.

      In fact, in Western Europe the four most recent major compaction drives at P&G were part of AISE initiatives with the objective to improve the sustainability profile of the laundry products and their household use. In some cases, it has not been that easy to reduce the amount of detergent used per wash - although that has not stopped P&G from trying.
      Meanwhile, the quality of washes has actually improved thanks to the new technology used and the better solubility of the detergent in water. As a result, new formulations of laundry products such as Mr Proper (laundry detergent in Germany) do better than previous powders on all environmental indicators assessed.
      Compaction research and development is a highly complex process, which is why it tends to progress in phases.
      The result is that your wash now has significantly less of an impact on the environment. But P&G is not complacent; its work is ongoing.

    • The future of compaction

      History has shown it is possible for us to make great advances in the sustainability of P&G products without compromising on the cleaning results they produce.

      It isn't an easy process, requiring a significant amount of research and investment, but P&G is committed to continuing with it.

      P&G supports the Sustainable Cleaning Charter produced by the International Association for Soaps, Detergents and Maintenance Products (A.I.S.E.), which aims to bring about continual improvement in the industry.

      Specifically, the A.I.S.E. Charter for Sustainable Cleaning requires member companies to have systems in place for continual assessment and review of sustainability performance at every important stage of the product lifecycle, including for example raw material selection, chemical safety, resource use, occupational health and safety and provision of advice to consumers on best and safe use.

      P&G supports AISE's view that doing regular assessments and reviews and ensuring proper information handling and training would stimulate and bring about improvement.

      In order to demonstrate how the industry is improving, A.I.S.E. will report regularly on the sustainability performance of the industry across Europe.

      Each year, AISE will provide the public and all interested bodies with a sustainability report based on aggregated data for 10 key performance indicators, grouped according to their economic, environmental or social importance, using data from individual company members of the Charter.

      The first report was published in 2006 and provided a set of benchmark figures based on data for company financial years ending in 2005. Progress against each of these indicators has since then been communicated in the annual AISE sustainability reports, which includes explanatory notes for the trends observed, best-practice examples and case studies. Future reports will be published annually.

      This will enable stakeholders to assess the progress of the industry whilst individual companies will be able to evaluate their own performance against the industry average. The initiative will evolve over time as experience develops and feedback is obtained.
      The 2010 update of the A.I.S.E. Charter for Sustainable Cleaning introduced changes to the sustainability logos, but also a new environmental product scheme for detergent and cleaning brands. The scheme includes criteria (so-called ‘ASP – Advanced Sustainability Profile’) for detergent and cleaning brands, intending to improve the environmental profile of the product but also encouraging sustainable consumption by consumers. Brands meeting these requirements can carry the A.I.S.E. sustainability logo on its label. This indicates to consumers that the product meets stringent environmental requirements but also encourages them to use the product sustainably by filling the wash machine, dose correctly, wash at low temperatures and recycle the packages after use.

  • Compaction: how can you make a difference?

    The good news when it comes to picking a detergent that is safe for environment is that you don't have to worry.

    Thanks to advances in technology, today's washing powders and liquids are, in general, much more compatible with the environment than they were 10 or 15 years ago.

    That helps the environment by making it more efficient to manufacture, store and distribute, as well as leading to less discharge into the wastewater.

    New compact detergents offer even better value and are even better for the environment. Uni-dose tablets or liquitabs are also among the best options, delivering just the right amount of product for an optimal wash.

    Now read on to find out other ways you can help the environment with your wash, what brands are the best to choose and why it is worth making the effort in the first place.

    • P&G tips on detergents that make a difference

      There is a pretty easy way to spot which detergents are best for your pocket and for the environment: they are the ones that have come onto the market most recently.

      Much of the research and development that goes into making new detergent products is focussed on reducing their impact on the environment, usually by making sure that they can deliver optimal results at a lower dosage and lower temperature.

      Lower dosages per wash means today's products are capable of going much further than before. But it is important, both for your pocket and for the environment, to make sure you get the dose right when you load a wash.

      Overdosing your laundry or dishwasher will not improve the quality of the results, and could even cause problems. It certainly will not help the environment or save you money.

      One way to make sure you always get the dosage right is to use tablets or liquitabs. Since one tablet or liquitab always equals a single dose, there is no danger of getting it wrong.

      These products contain all the ingredients you need for a perfect wash and are among the most environmentally-friendly options.

      If you are concerned about the environment, then the simplest thing you can do is wash at a lower temperature. Around 60 to 80 per cent of the overall energy consumption associated with the use of detergents takes place when you heat the water for your washing machine or dishwasher.

      Turning down the temperature, say from 40 to 30 degrees, can make a really big difference to the electricity used and the carbon emissions that stem from it.

      To find out about a recent sustainable innovation: Ariel Excel Gel click here.

      Click on the link below to find out which detergent brands offer the best performance with the least impact on the environment:
      Detergent information

    • Compact detergents: what's in it for me?

      Looking out for greener detergent is not just about reducing the environmental impact of the product and helping the planet; it can help you, too, in many ways. For instance:

      • Today's compact detergents are lighter than their predecessors, so they are easier to carry home from the supermarket.
      • The boxes are smaller too, so they take up less space in your car and in your home.
      • They last longer, so you save money.
      • They allow you to wash at lower temperatures, so your electricity bill won't be so high.
      • Washing at lower temperatures will also allow you to properly clean delicate items without risk of them breaking or fading.
      • If you use tablets or liquitabs then there is no fiddling about to get the right dose, saving you time.
      • If you use all-in-one dishwashing tablets then you don't need to worry about adding extra ingredients into the wash - another saving in time and money.
      • The formulation of today's powders and liquids makes them less prone to leaving marks on your laundry.


    • Tips

      To download a comprehensive list of tips about what you can do to make a difference, click here.

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